by Brian Lamar, Assignment Editor

Incumbents and challengers running for the position of alderman, alderman-at-large and mayor of Pass Christian, gathered in front of a crowd of interested citizens, family and friends at the Pass Christian High School gymnasium.

Leo “Chipper” McDermott, the current outgoing mayor of Pass Christian and Dr. Carla Evers, the Pass Christian School District Superintendent both gave opening words of encouragement and excitement for the throng of politically-minded citizens sitting in the bleachers waiting to hear their candidates.

Hunter Dawkins, the owner and publisher of The Gazebo Gazette read the rules for candidates and spectators for the event.

Each candidate was given time for an opening statement, answering questions from the panel and crowd and rebuttal. Each candidate was also given an opportunity for conclusion statements.

Three students from Pass Christian High school represented the future of Pass Christian by crafting and paneling the event alongside other adult panelists.

The student’s questions seemed to focus heavily on the future development of Pass Christian. They asked questions regarding Wifi accessibility to the city and candidate’s philosophies on programs that would assist students to find work and careers within the area. The student panelists also asked about improvement to recreational opportunities within the city as well.

The Alderman 1 candidates were incumbent Buddy Clarke and Betty Sparkman, who is running as an independant. The Alderman Ward 1 portion of the event started off with handshakes and cordiality. Sparkman seemed to woo the crowd with her impassioned speech of her love of Pass Christian and her dreams and goals for the future of the area.

The Alderman 2 candidate present was Challenger Joe Piernas. Incumbent Regina Charlot was not able to attend. Piernas, who was present at the event, read a statement and offered to take questions from the panel and crowd.  Dawkins read a statement from Charlot explaining her reasons for not attending the event. Charlot felt that it was best to not attend due to COVID-19 fears.

Things began to heat up a bit during the Alderman Ward 3 debate. Incumbent Anthony Hall faced off with challenger Kirk Kimball who came out swinging with allegations of stagnation.

According to Kimball, constituent’s complaints have gone unheard and unanswered by Hall. Kimball claimed that Hall had great intentions 16 years ago, but has lost his way.  Kimball also mentioned that if Hall completes another four-year tour, the city would be on the hook for his pension.

The Alderman-At-Large race between incumbent Kenny Torgeson and challenger Calvin Ishee went back and forth with volleys of reports of what hasn’t been accomplished by the current city government.  Ishee spoke on a platform of smart and responsible development for Pass Christian to include building up city services like better recreation programs for the city of Pass Christian so patrons don’t leave Pass Christian and spend their time and money in neighboring municipal programs like Long Beach.

In the power vacuum left behind by the news that Pass Christian’s current beloved mayor Chipper McDermott was hanging up his hat, three challenging mayoral candidates were on site to battle it out, Zenas Cappie, Adam Pace and Jimmy Rafferty.

Many were abuzz on social media before the event expecting this contentious debate to turn ugly.

Fortunately for the sake of everyone, it stayed passionate but civil. All three mayoral candidates stated their love for the city and gave their views on how to best improve it.

Pace, a long-time businessman in the area stated that he was most concerned about business development to broaden the tax base, which would potentially alleviate the tax burden on citizens.

Rafferty, also stated a plan for economic development was important as well as city improvements such as walkways and other infrastructure.

Cappie’s overarching theme throughout the event seemed to focus on building up and increasing the local government’s footprint to better support the city.

“I feel that this event was exactly what was needed for this election cycle. Many people came up to me after the event who were either uninformed of the candidate’s positions or were undecided. They told me this event gave them more clarity and helped them choose a candidate, which makes me happy because I am seeing democracy in action,” said Dawkins.

There are future debates on the horizon after the primary with the general election on June 6.